Minister Amy Khor: Social enterprise management model brings “vibrancy” to hawker centres

In the midst of the public uproar over some of the extra exorbitant charges imposed by social enterprise operators on hawkers, Senior Minister of State for Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor said yesterday (7 Sep) that the Government will continue to observe and evaluate the alternative social enterprise hawker management model.

NEA started this management model in 2015 to let hawker centres run by third-party social enterprise operators in the hope of making hawker food more affordable to Singaporeans. The operators are supposed to be socially conscious and responsible to improve operational efficiency while ensuring affordable food for the public.

However, as revealed by Makansutra founder KF Seetoh in his recent blog, hawkers at these social enterprise hawker centres were charged with dubious extra service fees on top of their stall rental. The fear is that more hawkers will push the extra hawker food costs onto consumers, making Singaporeans' lives already miserable to become impossible.

At present, there are 7 hawker centres run by social enterprise enterprises:

  1. Ci Yuan Hawker Centre
  2. Our Tampines Hub Hawker Centre
  3. Yishun Park Hawker Centre
  4. Jurong West Hawker Centre
  5. Bukit Panjang Hawker Centre
  6. Kampung Admiralty Hawker Centre
  7. Pasir Ris Central Hawker Centre

For example, at Pasir Ris Central Hawker Centre run by NTUC Foodfare, it was revealed that hawkers were charged a whole bunch of ancillary charges amounting to more than $2,000, a lot more than their rental:

  1. S&CC Charges - $350 per month
  2. Table Cleaning Service - $550 per month
  3. Dishwashing Service - $850 per month
  4. Rental of Cashless System - $150 per month
  5. Food Waste Recycling Management - $40 per month
  6. Concept and Marketing - $300 per month

They also have to pay and participate in the use of common crockery and cutlery at the hawker centre including yearly replacement and replenishment. In addition, they must buy gas from NTUC Foodfare's own supplier. Unable to bear the costs, at least 10 out of the 40-odd stalls have thrown in the towel at Pasir Ris Central Hawker Centre.

Amy Khor: Managing agents must inform NEA of additional services to hawkers

Yesterday (7 Sep), while touring the 'Our Tampines Hub Hawker Centre' with her entourage, Dr Amy Khor told the reporters, "Indeed we are very mindful that we need to ensure that hawkers have a decent livelihood ... In addition to lower rental and total operating costs, we give more weight to those who offer lower costs."

"We also make sure that managing agents are not allowed to increase rental or operating costs over the lease period," she added. She said that the model has only been implemented for three years, and the Government is still learning and evaluating it.

"We will continue to evaluate this alternative model, take into account suggestions and feedback on this ongoing process," she said.

On the additional services offered by managing agents such as the coin exchange service, and the quality control service as offered by Fei Siong Food Management, she explained that they are optional. Managing agents have to inform NEA when they want to offer additional services to hawkers, she said.

However, there is a need to “give some leeway to innovation” which can enhance the management of these social enterprise hawker centres, she added.

Overall, she said that Singaporeans have benefited from the social enterprise management model which has brought about a more vibrant hawker scene and improved dining experience. But if stalls continue to close like in the case of Pasir Ris Central Hawker Centre, it will become a "ghost" hawker centre vibrant only to the spirits.